The language skills of six-year-olds continue to develop in terms of their sophistication. In general, their pronunciation of words is clear, and they use complex grammatical forms accurately. Also, their vocabularies continue to increase rapidly. In first grade, children's language moves beyond communication to provide a groundwork for learning, including the development of independent reading skills. Language skills will interact with cognitive skills and lay the foundation for academic development.
Continues to rapidly develop vocabulary, with an estimate of about 3,000 new words learned during the year. It is a process that continues as the child grows and matures.
The typical child has the capacity to learn about 20 new words a day on average during elementary school.
Develops the ability to think about language, known as "metalinguistic awareness." The child can talk about words, not just use them for communication. A major influence on language skills is school experience. Beginning to learn about reading will expand the child's learning of, and awareness about, words.
Learns vocabulary related to an expanding real-world knowledge that develops from experiences in school and the community. Ability to define words is limited to the concrete use of a word or its obvious function (e.g., when asked what "ball" means, says, "A baseball, a soccer ball. Or, you kick it.")
Enjoys language play, including nursery rhymes, songs and word games where new nonsense words may be invented. Such play may include all aspects of language: sounds, meaning and forms. Increases skills for differentiating fact from fantasy.
Follows two- to three-step directions in their correct sequence. Begins to learn the rules for games and activities (e.g., board games, sports).
Demonstrates understanding of verbal instructions by recalling them and by responding appropriately to what was said. Can reply to more complex yes/no questions. Improves in the ability to use indirect requests (e.g., says, "It is hot today" when a drink of lemonade is wanted). Has difficulty understanding some uses of "must" and "should" (e.g. "shouldn't you...?").
Breaking words into their phonological elements (i.e., sounds or syllables) can aid the learning of additional words. Words with more common sound patterns are learned more easily. Children often are taught to segment words into their sound parts; this skill also serves growing skills with reading and writing.
Demonstrates the ability to control and adjust speaking rate, voice pitch (i.e., high and low sounds) and volume appropriately.
Develops better sense of time (e.g., "before, "after) and distance (e.g., "close," "far") concepts. May have difficulty putting events into a chronological sequence. Should be able to say and understand words like "this," "that," "these" and "those," and use them appropriately. Often has trouble producing correct pronouns and gerunds (i.e., forms of English verbs when they are being used as nouns, such as "fishing"). Uses fewer unusual descriptions (e.g., calling snow, "white rain" when seeing it for the first time) because vocabulary has expanded. Interprets proverbs (e.g. "Look before you leap.") very literally.
Can produce all sounds in the English language using speech that is understandable to listeners. Recognizes sound sequences that are not possible within English.
Speaks and expresses ideas using a range of complete sentences and most parts of speech correctly. In general, sentence length mirrors the child's age, so a child seven years of age produces sentences on average of seven words in length.
Grasps the idea of content words that label things, like "cat" or "dog," but not of function words like "the" or "was"; some children may skip function words altogether. May have learned about specific grammatical terms like "subject" and "verb" through formal education. Uses words like "now" and "then" (e.g., says, "Now I am going to play baseball. Then, I will ride my bike home.") but rarely more complex forms such as "however" or "perhaps." Learns rules for making words plural.
Communicates and repeats stories that have a series of events in a logical order. Can both ask and reply to "wh-" questions: who what, where, when, and why. Conveys stories using a chronological narrative format (e.g., says, "And then this happened, and then..."). Decontextualized language forms (i.e., referring to people, things, or events that are not immediately present) include not only narratives but explanations too (e.g., says, "This is how you play..."). Narrative forms and styles are culturally dependent; some children's narratives might be made up of only factual statements while other children may approach those facts by offering additional information. Sometimes, children are considered less knowledgeable or competent by the way in which they communicate stories. This evaluation depends on the listener's experience.
Initiates a conversation and can deliver directions to others.
Takes turns when speaking.
Can maintain the topic of the conversation and take turns speaking. Begins to use some elaboration when facing a conversational repair (i.e., when the listener indicates that the message is not understood).